Auburn looks to remain undefeated while Saint Louis seeks to build on a solid start to its season as the two schools face off in Birmingham, Alabama.
TV Schedule: Saturday, December 14 at 4:00 pm ET on ESPN 2
Location: Legacy Arena at the BJCC in Birmingham, AL
Fans might have forgiven Bruce Pearl had his team struggled a bit this season considering last year’s exciting run. However, the Tigers don’t seem interested in taking their foot off the gas as another trip to the Final Four doesn’t look too absurd at all for this group. Although Auburn is yet to play a top-25 opponent and may not do so until it plays Kentucky February 1st, the Tigers 8-0 record includes wins over some solid-looking teams – Richmond, Furman, and a much improved from last year New Mexico squad – to name a few.
Saint Louis will step up as the latest mid-major squad attempting to hand Auburn its first loss. Similar to its opponent, the Billikens went on a nice little post-season run of its own last season and also have wasted no time in getting down to business this 2019-20 season. A defeat to a strong Seton Hall team stands as SLU’s (8-1) only loss on the season as Travis Ford’s team has very much been a part of a bounce-back 2019-20 Atlantic 10 campaign.
In order to score what would obviously be a huge win, Saint Louis must shoot the ball well, with freshman Gibson Jimerson and sophomore Demarius Jacobs, being the two guys the Tigers don’t want to lose. Jimerson (45.3 3P%) and Jacobs (43.3 3P%) have made a combined 37 triples this season with the rest of the Billikens combining for just 28 made threes at a 30.1% clip.
On the other end of the floor, Auburn’s Samir Doughty will hope to continue what has been a phenomenal start to his senior season against a solid Saint Louis perimeter defense. Doughty leads the team in scoring averaging 18.5 points per game and is the only Tiger to score in double-figures in all eight contests. SLU is putting up solid defensive numbers under Travis Ford once again so expect the Billikens to make life as difficult as possible for Doughty.
The battle on the boards will be another interesting matchup to watch. SLU is the only team in the country with two players currently averaging a double-double with athletic 6’3″ guard Jordan Goodwin putting up 15.4 PPG and 11.0 RPG alongside the lengthy and very physical Hasahn French who is averaging 14.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG.
French, in particular, has put up some crazy dominant performances (he went for 21 points and an A-10 conference record-tying 24 rebounds in a win against Belmont a couple weeks back). Auburn has tremendous versatility with players like Isaac Okoro, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore. With that said, look for true big 6′ 11″ Austin Wiley to duel against French in what should be an epic fight.
If the game comes down to the wire, SLU fans will be holding their breath when the Billikens are at the free throw line. Coach Ford’s team was a poor free throw shooting team last season (60%) but have actually been significantly worse this season (53.5%). In fact, only winless Mississippi Valley State has been a worse team at the line this season. Yikes.
Even though the game is being played at a neutral site, I expect there to be significantly more Auburn fans with the game being played in Birmingham. Saint Louis got down 18 to 3 in a blink of an eye vs. Seton Hall last month, but I expect SLU to come out of the gate much better this time around. Still, I’m not sure Saint Louis can grab enough stops AND come through in crunch time on the offensive end to stop such a well-rounded Auburn team.
Prediction: Auburn 75-67 Saint Louis